Many children have difficulty saying certain sounds clearly. Sometimes, it is a normal developmental stage and will improve on its own; at other times they may require some direct help from a Speech Therapist. Parents often ask what they can do at home to help.
Talking and eating use many of the same muscles, so eating a range of textures and types of food helps exercise these muscles. Try crunchy things like raw carrots and apple or foods like stews where you have a range of textures together. Just trying new things is good! Some children with speech difficulties also have a restricted diet as they find chewing effortful.
Being able to drink from an open cup, helps build strength in the lips and jaw. It can also help with dribbling! Also try drinking through different straws. This exercises the lips and the tongue. Narrow straws are harder to drink with than fat ones. See if your child can keep the straw at the front of their mouth, between their lips rather than putting it further in on the tongue – this can help with the “c, k” and “g” sounds as it encourages the tongue to pull back in the mouth.
Get rid of them! Even using dummies for a small amount of time each day can be detrimental to a child’s speech. After the age of 1, a child doesn’t really NEED a dummy any more. It will be hard for a few days, but is worth doing. Get every dummy in the house; the one down the back of the sofa, the emergency handbag one and any hidden in your child’s room. If they have all gone, you can’t give in at three in the morning! You can make an activity of this and get your child involved. Talk about how grown up they are now and package up the dummies. I have had some parents post the box of dummies to the ‘dummy fairies’ who exchange them for a small present, or to the ‘little babies’ who need them more. Whatever you think will work for your child. By doing this together, hopefully your child will know that they have really gone and it’s not just you being mean.
- Making sounds
Have fun making sounds and words; look in the mirror and pull funny faces as you make sounds. See if you can stick your tongue out or make the back jump up. Say strings of sounds e.g. p..t..p..t..p..t or ah…ee…ah…ee…ah…ee etc. Have fun with it. It doesn’t matter if the sounds are correct – we are just practising. Always praise the effort that your child is putting in, not the outcome!
Remember that some sounds are harder than others. “c, k” and “g” are normally in place by 4 years old. They are harder as they require the back of the tongue to move. I encourage this sound by making the child open their mouth wide and talking about the back of the tongue jumping up – always show them what you mean as well!
“sh”, “ch”, “j”, “r”, “th” – are also later sounds. Some children are still working on them at 5 and 6 years old. Words with two consonants together are also harder e.g. brush or spoon.
- General advice
Do not overdo corrections. If you are constantly nagging your child they will get angry or frustrated. Instead praise them when they say something well.
Wait until your child has finished what they are trying to say and then repeat back correctly so they can hear the word e.g.
Child: I can see a tat.
Parent: oh what a lovely cat.
It is as important for your child to hear the sound as it is to say it. If you are practising a certain sound, comment about things that start with that sound. For example if you are practising the “c, k” sound, you could comment “car – that starts with the “k” sound. Is there anything else here that starts with that sound….. Look a cup, that starts with a “k” as well” etc. Older children may be able to join in and find other items that start with the sound as well.
Remember that you are trying to change a habit that you child may have had for some time, so it is unlikely to correct over night. Be patient.